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Sunday, February 20, 2005

Bettman must go

The last minute involvement of Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux highlighted a glaring problem the NHL has had since Gary Bettman became its commissioner  in 1993. Bettman is an administrator and not a very effective one. What the commissioner should be, though, is an ambassador for the game, which Bettman is not. Gretzky and Lemieux are. Unfortunately for hockey fans, of which I long ago ceased considering myself, their efforts came too late. There is much blame to go around: the owners desire a salary cap because they lack the discipline to stop spending their own money; the NHL Players Association thinks that they should c0-control the sport; Bettman and NHLPA head honcho Bob Goodenow dislike each other so much it is unlikely that they can negotiate in good faith with one another. But the NHL's problem is that its commissioner doesn't think about what fans want -- whether it is a lockout or the quality of play on the ice. Any deal that does not include Bettman's removal will not solve the sport's long-term problems and to that end there is this website: removebettman.com.

Posted by Paul Tuns on February 20, 2005 in Sports | Permalink


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Both Bettman and Goodenow deserve to lose their jobs over this fiasco, though I agree Bettman is the more culpable of the two. I do, however, believe that having no season at all this year is preferable -- and in the interest of those who care about the long-term halth of the game -- to playing a few games and trying to pass it off as a season. It is a shame how that came about, though.

Posted by: MLM | 2005-02-20 11:11:09 AM

Long-time Parliament Hill pundit, Douglas Fisher, says it is no small mercy that PM P. Martin did not bite on the invitation to help settle the lock-out in the nhl.

Fisher states again the PM Martin is a ditherer.

Dither, n. A state of indecisive action.

Ditherer, noun. Paul Martin, PM of Canada. A puck hog?

Posted by: maz2 | 2005-02-20 12:23:23 PM


Mario's released statement said it all for me:
"I certainly appreciate the work Gary and Bill have done a lot more, now that I have been part of one of these sessions."


The PA is a bunch of $%&*^@

Read Damien Cox's article in the Star if you have a chance:

"Gretzky and Lemieux, counted among the most moderate owners, were left bewildered and angry at their former union, while Bob Goodenow in absentia may have been able to regain some control over his fractured organization by creating the impression for his charges that the league is wholly intransigent."

I don't think there needs to be a removegoodenow.com - I would guess it's already happening at nhlpasource.com

Posted by: Don | 2005-02-20 1:37:42 PM

This is such a ridiculous idea.

"But the NHL's problem is that its commissioner doesn't think about what fans want"

Is it any wonder that most all fans blame the players and Goodenow for being so greedy and selfish?

The NHL's problem is that a bunch of elitists - players - and not the elite few - owners - are in control.

Posted by: Jonathan M | 2005-02-20 5:02:42 PM

Neither side is willing to face up to the real problem: there are too many teams and not enough good players to fill those rosters. The result is simple economics. Demand exceeds supply and prices go up. And it is not so much the price paid for marquee players that does the damage, but the salary inflation for the second and third tiers of talent.

A salary cap will not fix things because it only treats the symptom and not the ailment (the owners should be able to show some fiscal discipline on their own anyway). It may bring "cost certainty", but that doesn't address the problems on the ice. League contraction is a necessity. Shrinking the rosters would also help.

A pox on both houses, but Bettman and the NHL are more culpable because it is the misguided league expansion of the last fifteen years that is mostly responsible for where we are today. The NHLPA must share the blame because it agreed to the expansion. Both sides went for the quick buck and are now paying the piper.

Since neither side is likely to agree to contraction, I hope some teams do end up folding during this hiatus. At this stage I would not be surprised to see new leadership at the NHL and the NHLPA (if the association doesn't break up, that is) before we see another season.

Check out http://hockeyrumors.blogspot.com/ for some interesting dirt on the whole thing. Take it with a grain of salt, of course.

Posted by: MLM | 2005-02-20 8:08:18 PM

I wonder if the owners’ problem is more serious than most pundits suggest. (ie. “the owners desire a salary cap because they lack the discipline to stop spending their own money”)

I know a CEO who would demonstrate the economics of the high-tech business environment by holding a $20 auction. He would hold up a $20 bill and say, “I’ll give this to whoever bids the highest for it BUT, the highest bidder has to give me his bid AND the second-highest also has to give me his last bid.” It was entertaining to watch the first wave of understanding come over the audience as the bidding passed $11 (when the auctioneer breaks even); the second wave of understanding comes as the bidding approaches $20 (where neither bidder makes money); and the third wave comes as the bidding passes $25 in $1 increments (since neither bidder wants to be the one who gets nothing.)

This is a good illustration of the economics of a situation where the #1 competitor makes way more money than #2. High-tech industrial suppliers fit this model because the first-to-market gets a huge advantage. Hockey may also fit this model since winning teams make more money than losing ones.

I have yet to figure out whether there is a free-market solution to this problem, or failing that, what is the least distorting intervention. I do feel some sympathy for their desperate notion of a salary cap.

If the $20 auction really is a good model for the NHL woes, the implications go beyond the hockey season.

Posted by: Pete E | 2005-02-20 9:59:30 PM

I agree - Bettman is part of the problem ... not part of the solution

Posted by: raskolnikov | 2005-02-21 12:43:04 AM

Bettman is the only hope for a viable though small league. If you wish to indulge in the players' fantasy land economics- half full rinks but ever rising salaries- then sign up for an autograph session with your proletarian heroes.

Posted by: Barry Stagg | 2005-02-21 2:27:16 PM

Who will come out ahead in this ridiculous game playing? I wouldn't bet on the Bettman but then his opponent may be Goodenow but he's not good enough.

Posted by: BobWood | 2005-02-21 7:45:43 PM

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